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What do all vertebrates have in common? What are the advantages of having bones? In this program featuring live animals and skeletons, students will compare frogs, snakes, and turtles with humans to see basic characteristics shared by all vertebrates and specialized structures that support their behavior, growth, and survival.

This live Zoom (or other videoconference platform) class is taught by museum educators using specimens and live animals in the Harvard Museum of Natural History. See our website for additional school programs. https://hmnh.harvard.edu/k-12-classes

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About This Program


Multipoint: $150.00
Point to Point: $150.00

$150 per group of 50 students although smaller groups (eg 25) are recommended for increased interactivity.

Schools may be eligible for reduced rates based upon free and reduced lunch status. Contact hmnhreserve@hmsc.harvard.edu to inquire about eligibility.


45 minutes

Target Audience

Education: Grade(s) 3, 4, 5

Minimum participants:


Maximum participants:


Primary Disciplines


Program Delivery Mode

Videoconference – Webcam/desktop (Zoom, Google Meet, Cisco WebEx, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, etc...)

Booking Information

Available Monday-Friday 9am to 3pm Eastern Time

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Receive this program and 9 more for one low price when you purchase the CILC Virtual Expeditions package. Learn more

For more information contact CILC at (507) 388-3672

Provider's Cancellation Policy

Notify the Education Department immediately by email hmnhreserve@hmsc.harvard.edu. Groups cancelling within two weeks prior to a scheduled program will be charged the full program fee. Rescheduling is possible for emergency school closures (due to such factors weather or illness.)

About This Provider

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Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (HMSC)

Cambridge, MA
United States

The Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (HMSC) is a
partnership of four Harvard museums designed to coordinate captivating
programming for all ages, permanent galleries, and dynamic rotating
exhibits. HMSC invites you to connect with Harvard University's
distinctive collections and vital research on human civilizations,
biodiversity, and the history of Earth and science.

Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology:
From towering Native American totem poles and large Maya sculptures to precious artifacts of the ancient world, the Peabody Museum at Harvard University is among the oldest archaeological and ethnographic museums in the world with one of the finest collections of human cultural history found anywhere. The museum is a member of the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture (HMSC) consortium.

Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East:
Journey from Egypt to Mesopotamia through galleries that showcase the history, languages, and cultures of the ancient Near East - the region that brought us the alphabet, the pyramids, and other wonders of the ancient world. The museum, founded in 1889, houses more than 40,000 ancient Near Easten artifacts, many from museum-sponsored excavations in Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Tunisia. The Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East uses these collections to investigate and teach Near Eastern archaeology, history, and culture. The museum is a member of the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture (HMSC) consortium.

Harvard Museum of Natural History:
The Harvard Museum of Natural History was established in
1998 as the public face of three research museums: the Museum of Comparative
Zoology, the Harvard University Herbaria, and the Mineralogical & Geological
Museum. Presenting these incomparable collections and the research of
scientists across the University, the Harvard Museum of Natural History’s
mission is to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the natural
world and the human place in it, sparking curiosity and a spirit of discovery
in people of all ages.

Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments:

The core mission of the Collection of Historical
Scientific Instruments is to preserve, document, and care for over 20,000
instruments portraying the history of science teaching and research at Harvard
from the Colonial period to the 21st century. Through its lively exhibit and
teaching programs, web presence, and increasing involvement in critical media
practices, the CHSI’s research activities and cultural initiatives intersect
and bring together a multiplicity of academic disciplines and areas of
professional museum expertise. The CHSI is both a specialized institution and
an experimental space, where Harvard Faculty and students, instrument scholars
and museum experts meet in the production of object-based knowledge.

Cathy Disanzo

Program Details


1. This program starts with an introduction to comparative anatomy using a human skeleton as a familiar reference point, illustrating the function of a skeleton.
2. Then we observe a snake skeleton and make arguments about how its specialized form supports behavior, growth and survival.
3. Next we observe a live frog and frog skeleton and compare to snakes and humans
4. Finally we observe a live turtle and turtle skeleton and make comparisons.
5. In closing, we review and consider how we can apply our understanding to help us learn about other animals.


Participants will:
-collect observations from real skeletons
-engage in scientific argumentation
-make comparisons among several skeletons to understand form and function
-explore commonalities in vertebrates

Standards Alignment

National Standards

LS4A 3-5 -- Evidence of common ancestry and diversityStrongly supports:
4-LS1-1. Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

Also supports:
3-LS4-3. Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

State Standards

Strongly supports Massachusetts Science standard: 4-LS1-1 Also Supports: 3-LS4-3